“Today is a very glorious day for me personally and, I think, for the entire nation,” said Boniface Kadzamira, the former Malawi Member or Parliament said on Thursday.
The country passed a bill this week that decriminalizes cannabis for medicinal and industrial purposes. Malawi now joins neighboring African states Zimbabwe, Zambia and Lesotho in the legalization of medical cannabis. South Africa, decriminalized marijuana for both medical and recreational use in 2018.
“It is my strong view that cannabis will in the long run replace tobacco to become our major cash crop – that will contribute hugely to the GDP,” said Kadzamira. The hope is that the legal industry will create jobs in the farming and retail sectors.
“We don’t want to replicate what has happened in the tobacco industry. Malawians should participate, not as tenants, but as equal partners in this new sector,” added Kadzamira.
British entrepreneur Tanya Clarke operates Invegrow, the first company in Malawi to obtain government authorisation to conduct research trials on low-THC industrial hemp in 2015. Those trials were completed in 2018 and Invegrow was among the group of bill advisors.
“There will be lots of people interested and looking at Malawi at the moment, but the next step is to make its investment climate favourable and positive,” said Clarke.
Among those advocating for the decriminalization of cannabis was the Rastafarian community of Malawi, who contributed to discussions on the drafting of the bill.
“As we Rasta, we make food with ganja, we can make soap with ganja, we can make clothes with ganja, we can make medicines,” said Lazarus Kadiwa of central Lilongwe.
“We’ve been looking for this all these years. It’s our chance to do business with the government, because we need to have our own licences to plant our own ganja,” he added.
(Lazarus Kadiwa, photo by Alice McCool)
“People are going to celebrate,” smiled Kadiwa. “Rastas are going to sing and chant and shout, because we know at last we’re going to make something through this healing of a nation, ganja.”
Chatinkha Chidzanja Nkhoma, technical director of Malawi Hemp Association, expressed enthusiasm for the new bill, explaining that Malawians have traditionally used marijuana to treat a myriad of ailments “from fever and smallpox to mental health problems.”
“As a young mother, I was taught to give my baby cannabis when he developed chicken pox,” Nkhoma said. “Hemp will be the new economic frontier, which will greatly benefit Malawians.”